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Call to make Catholic Mass at Holyrood a regular event after historic first for Scottish Parliament

MSPs have called for Catholic Mass to become a regular event at the Scottish Parliament after an historic first Mass at Holyrood was held last week. — By AMANDA CONNELLY and PETER DIAMOND

Politicians joined Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese as he celebrated the first ever Mass in the Scottish Parliament during Holy Week at 12.30pm on March 28.

The archbishop described it as a ‘great privilege’ to celebrate the Mass.

“It is a great privilege to be officially invited to offer Holy Mass within the Scottish Parliament, the first such invitation since the parliament’s re-establishment 19 years ago,” he said. “It is a generous gesture which seems to recognise that Catholics are valued participants in the civic life of contemporary Scotland, where we seek to work with others in advancing the common good.”

Labour MSP Elaine Smith revealed that the archbishop was originally meant to distribute ashes at the start of Lent but the event was postponed.

The MSP for Central Scotland said: “It kind of happened more by accident than design to be honest which worked out perfectly.

“Archbishop Cushley was originally scheduled to visit parliament at the start of Lent to distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday because the issue had been raised that it can be extremely difficult for members to get out of parliament business depending on proceedings and meetings.

“However, as it turned out parliament was in recess on Ash Wednesday so it was disappointing that the proposals were cancelled.

The MSP added: “The idea to have Mass during Holy Week soon lifted my disappointment and I approached the presiding officer about my idea.

“He kindly offered his dining room to be used for the Mass, in Queensberry House, which is the oldest part of the parliamentary campus that dates back to the 1600s.”

Mrs Smith said that around 25 people attended Mass with MSPs and staff from the parliament buildings.

She said: “Archbishop Cushley was pleased to come along and celebrate the Mass, which was well attended given the short notice. I would like to think it would be even better attended had a few more days notice been given to members and their staff.

“All the leaders of the Holyrood party’s were invited—and didn’t attend. However the Mass gained cross-party support with the exception of the Green Party.

“It was also good to see the government well represented with John Swinney and Roseanna Cunningham attending. The Mass was extra special not only because it was the first ever one at parliament but because it was during Holy Week and the feedback from those attending was very positive.

“They all said it was lovely to see Mass being said in parliament and I think going forward it would be great to see the distribution of ashes and a Mass during Holy Week as an annual event. Of course everyone is more than welcome to attend and take part, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.”

Among those MSPs in attendance at the Mass were members of the cabinet including deputy first minister John Swinney, as well as fellow SNP MSP Roseanna Cunningham. Neil Findlay, Elaine Smith, Monica Lennon, Alex Rowley and Mark Griffin were present from the Labour Party, while Scottish Conservative MSPs Annie Wells and Donald Cameron, and Mike Rumbles of the Liberal Democrats, were also among the congregation.

Director of the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office Anthony Horan said that due to its name, Holyrood was a ‘fitting’ place for the historic first.

“The celebration of Holy Mass, the summit of Catholic life, is an opportunity to express prayers for the work of our elected representatives and for the common good of society,” he said. “Of course, Holyrood means Holy Cross, so in that sense, parliament is a most fitting place for this historic celebration.”

Roseanna Cunningham, cabinet secretary for environment, climate change and land reform and MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, said: “It was wonderful experiencing such an historic moment, even if it took us a little by surprise.

“We are grateful to Archbishop Leo Cushley for giving us his time and to MSP Elaine Smith for helping to organise. It may be the first Mass in parliament but I hope it’s not the last.”

– peter@sconews.co.uk

– amanda@sconews.co.uk

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